Nutt: 'Learn from it; correct our mistakes'

Coach Houston Nutt met the media Monday afternoon at the IPF for his weekly press conference.

Nutt: It was good to get back in a regular routine. Sunday's always been a time to come back and watch film, put that to rest and get right back on the field. It was a good feeling to get back out there yesterday. I thought we had a very good practice. Good to see the sunshine and we got on Vanderbilt (preparations). Looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow.

Q: It had been a long time since these kids experienced a loss. How did they handle it returning to practice?

Nutt: Very good. Had an excellent attitude. As much as that one hurt, we had to get the message across that there is nothing we can do about that one now. Learn from it. Correct our mistakes. We've got another conference game against a very good team. So we've got to go. Our guys really ran around well and had good focus yesterday.

Q: Are you thinking about making any changes along the offensive line?

Nutt: The guys we have in there, we try to put the best guys on the field. We feel like we have the best group out there. We've just got to get better. If you look at the film really hard and study it, if we just finish a block, take one more step, run through a block, a few more yards, a few more positive yards, first downs. So I think they saw that. We've got the right guys on the field. With A.J. Hawkins and Brandon Green, those guys right there are still working very hard. They're the next guys. The ones that we have on the field. They're our guys.

Q: What can you do to help Bradley Sowell improve?

Nutt: He's not the only one, and it's not all Brad. He's getting a lot of credit for that. But there were some times we've got to get rid of the ball quicker. There were some times we've got to run a better route. It's a combination. You're talking about a first-year guy at left tackle. So I don't want to give him all the credit on that deal. We can help him by chipping a back. Put a tight end to his side a little more. Mix that up to help.

Q: Will Dexter's role at RB expand this week?

Nutt: I'd like to hold that. He's so valuable. We want to get him the ball. Don't ever want to go a half and not get him the ball. That wasn't our intention. When we got behind the count a little bit, that made it very, very difficult. He'll play all those positions again. We're not going to say how many or where, it just depends on the flow of the game. How we're executing and making first downs and hopefully scoring. He's a vital part of it.

Q: Were you surprised your offense hasn't been able to get into a good rhythm through three games?

Nutt: Absolutely. That's been one of the more disappointing things, not being able to really come out and get into that rhythm that we're accustomed to. Keeping the ball, making first downs, putting points on the board. It's taking us too long to get going. I expect that to change, the way practice went yesterday. I had a good feeling about that. We're getting better.

Q: What part does Jevan play in getting that rhythm going?

Nutt: It's just hitting open receivers. Don't see ghosts, and what I mean by that is don't expect something to collapse, or don't feel like you've got to concentrate on what's below you. We want your eyes downfield like last year. Just play the game like we know he's capable. When he does that, we move the football.

Q: What is the status of Gerald Harris and Andy Hartmann?

Nutt: I hope to see them back soon. Gerald maybe this week. Andy won't be back this week. That's two vital parts of the puzzle that are missing. Two older guys, senior guys, tough and knowledgable. We miss those guys. Hopefully Gerald will be back this weekend. We will see how he does.

Q: With the offensive line trying to find itself, is there room in the playbook for the smaller, quicker back? Does that help at this point?

Nutt: The quicker backs, the guys that see it a little quicker, like Dexter gave us that big lift. He gets in behind John Jerry and they find a crease and he hits it. Same thing with Rodney Scott. We've got a lot of confidence in Brandon Bolden and he ran hard. Enrique's a hard runner. You've got some hard runners, some in between the tackle guys. But as tough as South Carolina's front was, we needed a jumpstart, some quickness, and that's why we went that route.

Q: In hindsight, were your kids ready for a top 5 ranking mentally to deal with a big spotlight like Thursday night?

Nutt: We didn't handle that one good. The thing about the top 5 is that it's hard to tell a team that's in this position for the first time in over 40 years, OK let's forget about all this and that. Every single day they see it. You guys tell them. Hey, you're No. 4 this week. That's hard. It's hard to put away. It's blocking, it's tackling, it's executing. It's throwing to our guys. It's blocking without the ball. It's playing together. That's what's hard. Deep down inside I probably knew we weren't 4 or 5, but I'm not going to go say that when you guys are telling us we are. That's just the way it is. We've got to do a better job. It was uncharted waters, and I knew that. I can't control the media and where we're picked. There are a lot of teams in that same position we're in. Lot of teams. You're going to see it every Saturday. This is toughest conference in America. You've got to be ready to go. It's the team that plays the best in that three hours, the team that makes the fewest mistakes and takes care of the ball, that's the team that's going to win.

Q: How can you help Jevan even more?

Nutt: Best thing Jevan has is a year under his belt. He's missing a starting fullback, a starting tight end, a left tackle that was a first round pick who is starting for the Baltimore Ravens. All those are factors. But he has to trust his teammates, trust what we're doing and play the game we're trying to lay out in front of him. We'll have a nice, simple plan. And just go execute. He's done it before. He started this way last year and he worked himself out of it. Bottom line, just work yourself out of it. We feel we have the things he can do. When we lay everything out and do it over and over, he can handle it. I've seen him do it. There are some plays he's made this year that are very, very good. You have to be consistent and stay in that rhythm. I have all the faith in the world in him.

Q: How important is senior leadership this week?

Nutt: Absolutely. That started Sunday. That's why I feel so good about Sunday's practice. We've got 22 really good seniors who really want to win. They tasted winning. They understand it. They know how tough it is. It's about getting back up. You got knocked down, you get back up. People say you didn't deserve a No. 4 ranking and they hear all those things. The kids didn't have anything to do with that ranking. That's where you have to put all that aside and play football. We're going to Nashville, and we're off to a great start. It's important to have more good work days. Here we go. Senior leadership is important, and we have some good guys that are doing that.

Q: Is it kinda catch 22 where if you go to maximum protection and they have four or five DBs covering one or two wide receivers, and if you don't go to maximum protection, they're getting pressure on the quarterback and throwing Jevan off? How do you combat that?

Nutt: That's a great question. You have to mix things up. Throw on first down. We self-scouted ourselves a lot to try to keep the defense off balance. That is a problem. With defenses that are as fast as the ones we play, that's where the running game helps. Play action, boots, and waggles, and things like that, you can keep people off balance doing things like that. If we just keep executing, starting with that run, handle that, everybody doing their job, then play action, mix three wides and four wides, there's no tendencies. Keep them off balance.

Q: Is your O-Line under the microscope right now?

Nutt: They want to do good. They're used to winning. It's a sick feeling (to lose). All of us want to get better. But I don't want them to be so tight they can't play either. You can't play tight. Relax and play hard as you can play, and everybody will get better. If you worry about being under a microscope, and under pressure, you can only hold a glass of water so long, you may drop that thing. Just relax, take a glass of water, drink it, and let's go.

Q: Were you pleased with your defense?

Nutt: The defense was outstanding. But I think we can tackle better in some spots. The thing about Tyrone is that he had an excellent plan. Terry Price had those defensive linemen running to the ball, and I thought he did a great job substituting. Secondary is doing better. Don't want to hold. Keep playing the ball with your eyes. They played hard and well enough to win. That's what makes you sick. Got to have all three phases. Win together and lose together. Special teams got better. Punt return was better.

Q: How did you evaluate Tyler Campbell?

Nutt: Pretty good but he can do better. He hit the ball good and had a pretty good average. I've seen him do a whole lot better, but for the first time not too bad.

Q: What does Bradley Sowell need to do to get better as an LT?

Nut: When you have the greatest athletes in the country, with their ears pinned back, if you've ever tried that, it's the toughest job in football, to back peddle, take two kick steps, block Greg Hardy, Eric Norwood. Every team in this league has one. Got one this week. No. 90 (for Vandy). It's the toughest job there is. He's gotten better. But it goes unnoticed when you lose. There were some protections he did well on. It's all of us. We all have to get better. That job on the edges is very visible, because that guy is coming to get your quarterback.

Q: Give us an update on Tim Simon and D.T. Shackelford.

Nutt: Tim will get a medical redshirt. Really hate he got hurt. D.T. is still hobbling along. Don't know yet if he will be ready this week. He's a tough guy.

Q: How does D.T.'s injury affect you at LB?

Nutt: D.T. was on his way. We've never had two freshmen linebackers like Joel Kight and D.T. Shackelford. They are outstanding guys that are relentless and big playmakers. It hurts our depth. We've got three good LBs that are healthy. Jonathan Cornell, Patrick Trahan, and Allen Walker. Lamar Brumfield is hurt. And D.T. It hurts our depth and also special teams. Brumfield probably won't be able to play this week. He's got a foot/ankle problem.

Q: With Lamar out what is your rotation at LB?

Nutt: Four-man rotation. That's it.

Q: Evaluate your kickoff return team. Will there be changes?

Nutt: If we did it would be to put a rocket back there. They're getting better. They're secure with the ball. Cordera and Brandon get us anywhere from the 25 to the 35. I don't know if they'll be able to hit a home run. They're secure with the ball. They understand the schemes. Cassius Vaughn has worked really good back there, but if he gets hit, you lose him. That's the problem with the depth. You're not as deep at linebacker. You're trying to juggle that part of it. We might slip in a Rodney Scott or a Cassius or a Marshay back there. But you're just concerned about injury.

Q: Talk about Vandy a bit:

Nutt: They're always sound. Offensively they have an athletic quarterback. They've got an offense a lot like Memphis - shotguns, bootlegs, inside zone, option. Spread you out and try to keep you off balance. Defensively very sound. Going against Bobby Johnson for a long time, you know you'll have a very hard fought ballgame. They've had a couple of injuries. One defensive end and one safety. They've had a chance to win every game when you look at it. They could be 4-0 if the ball bounced differently. They've got a good team.

Q: What did you think of Greg Hardy's play at USC?

Nutt: I was really proud of Greg. He got about 32 plays. He's still limping a little bit but he gets in there and produces. Gets a sack or two. Everybody's aware when he's in there. Everybody starts pointing, and they've got to protect. He's a force. Hopefully he'll get better and better. He had a good practice Sunday.


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